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A Handful of Stars

Last updated Sunday, February 5, 2017

Author: Cynthia Lord
Date of Publication: 2015
ISBN: 0545700272
Grade Level: 4th    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Feb. 2017

Synopsis: This powerful middle-grade novel from the Newbery Honor author of RULES explores a friendship between a small-town girl and the daughter of migrant workers. When Lily's blind dog, Lucky, slips his collar and runs away across the wide-open blueberry barrens of eastern Maine, it's Salma Santiago who manages to catch him. Salma, the daughter of migrant workers, is in the small town with her family for the blueberry-picking season.

After their initial chance meeting, Salma and Lily bond over painting bee boxes for Lily's grandfather, and Salma's friendship transforms Lily's summer. But when Salma decides to run in the upcoming Blueberry Queen pageant, they'll have to face some tough truths about friendship and belonging. Should an outsider like Salma really participate in the pageant-and possibly win. Set amongst the blueberry barrens and by the sea, this is a gorgeous new novel by Newbery Honor author Cynthia Lord that tackles themes of prejudice and friendship, loss and love.

Note to readers:
•  Start with chapter 4.
•  Summary up to chapter 4: Lily’s dog, Lucky, gets loose, and is about to run into the road in front of a truck. Salma, a migrant workers daughter, gets him to stop. The next day Lily brings Salma a thank you gift. The day after that, Salma goes to visit Lily at the general store. Lily tells her about the bee houses that she paints, and sells, to raise money for Lucky’s eye operation. Salma helps out by painting one.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  Do you have a dog or other pet?
•  What kind of dog do you think is on the cover? (Black Labrador Retriever)
•  What do you think is on the dogs nose?


•  Memere- French nickname for grandmother.
•  Pepere- French nickname for grandfather.
•  Pollinators- to give a plant pollen from another plant of the same kind.
•  Blueberry Barrens- fields of blueberries.
•  Occasionally- sometimes but not often.
•  Smart aleck- a person who says things that are clever or funny but that are also disrespectful or rude.

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  What do you like to imagine you are doing when you are doing something boring?
•  Have you eaten blueberries?
•  Do you know where Maine is?
•  What is wrong with Lily's dog, Lucky?
•  Have you ever raised money to help someone or something?

Craft ideas:
•  Draw a picture of what you would draw on the side of a bee house?
•  Make an animal Valentine. Check our February craft ideas on Pinterest!
•  Make a Valentine's Day card.

Special activities:
•  Show kids where Maine is on a map.

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don’t have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!